Most baseball fans are likely to recognize the songs “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” and “Centerfield.” And, in ball diamonds, wrestling mats, and football stadiums across the nation, more and more spectators are beginning to recognize the names and jingles of a few diligent local HVAC contracting companies.
National Name Recognition
HVAC contractors are always looking for new ways to share their names with the general public, and one popular way is through sports sponsorships.
Many contractors are finding success sponsoring athletic events, backing teams at the professional level all the way down to the little league games held at the local sandlots.
Tim Cropp, vice president of sales, CroppMetcalfe Inc., Fairfax, Va., said his company’s been a long-time sponsor of the NFL’s Washington Redskins, serving as the title sponsor of the team’s pre- and post-game shows before recently taking an in-stadium role. The company is now the official HVAC company of the team. CroppMetcalfe also can be found inside Nationals Park, home of MLB’s Washington Nationals. This year marks the second consecutive year the company has sponsored D.C.’s MLB ball club.
“I knew when I was going to do this that I’d have to dump a lot of money into it to make it work,” Cropp said. “I couldn’t go into it just part way. The next thing was to go inside the stadium to build on the branding. We’ve done this so many years now, we’ve just been accustomed to being with the Redskins. I’m building that with the Nationals now, I’m not quite there yet. But now, I’m associated with the Redskins.”
More importantly, because of how involved CroppMetcalfe is with the Redskins, Cropp said he was able to gain exclusive sponsor rights in his fields of HVAC, plumbing, and pest control.
“That was one major verbiage I had put in there,” Cropp said. “I didn’t necessarily have that on the radio and stuff when I first started, they had other heating and air conditioning contractors on there, but when I became the title sponsor to the programs they had, I didn’t want anyone coming on that was a competitor in HVAC, plumbing, or pest control. They obliged to it, and I’ve been renewing with them. It’s been a good working relationship with both parties.”
Ray Isaac, president, Isaac Heating & Air Conditioning, Rochester, N.Y., said his company sponsored the NFL’s Buffalo Bills for several years.
“Advertising with a team such as the Bills adds viability, some credentials, and a little bit of backing to your company name when you go into a new market like we did,” he said. “When you go into those new markets and they see that you’re associated with a major league franchise, they know you mean something and you’re actually a viable entity. It adds a little bit of credibility to your organization.”
After a few years with the Bills, Isaac said his company terminated the contract — which carried a price tag of more than $30,000 — and appropriated the funds toward local kids and high school teams, amongst other opportunities.
“We took the full amount and sponsored local teams, walks for cancer, 10Ks, 5Ks, golf tournaments, and other things like that,” said Isaac. “When it comes down to it, there might be someone on the sidelines at an NFL game saying, ‘Yeah, I know of Isaac, but I don’t use them.’ Now, we’re hearing, ‘I know of Isaac, and they sponsor my kid’s team, so I’m going to give them a shot.’ That’s turned out great. You give a team like that $500, and you’re kings to them. They’ll put your name on everything.”
Even though Isaac has ceased in-season advertising with the Bills, he still sponsors a preseason calendar that highlights the team’s players with an Isaac logo on each page.
Isaac also sponsors Triple-A baseball’s Rochester Red Wings, along with Syracuse University athletics, and a local indoor soccer team.
“Sports teams aren’t going to attract fly-by-night companies,” Isaac said. “Professional sports sponsors are recognized as competent, valid companies.”
Additionally, some contractors also are major sponsors of television and radio broadcasts of local teams. Family Heating, Cooling & Electrical, a Detroit-area contractor, is a heavy sponsor of Detroit Tigers baseball on FSN Detroit and WXYT-FM, known as 97.1 the Ticket, with in-game graphics and regular commercials.
Even though sponsoring professional teams is a great way to raise brand awareness, there are many markets that don’t have one, let alone four, major league sports teams.
Waco, Texas, is one of those markets.
Although home to Big 12 Conference member Baylor University, Waco is without a professional team to call its own.
Rick Tullis, president, Capstone Mechanical in Waco, has a sponsorship presence during Baylor men’s and women’s basketball, football, and baseball games, but said he has found as much success sponsoring the area’s youth teams.
“For the residential side of our business, it’s great exposure,” Tullis said. “You’re getting your name in with a lot of families, and even advertising at those youth sports venues is a big part of our marketing budget for our residential side. Families congregate at those venues and they see your name.
“I really encourage our employees to coach teams, and any time they coach one, we’ll sponsor it,” he said. “One of our employees runs the local little league, so we let him have all their league meetings and their drafts here at Capstone, because I want all those people coming in and out of our building. It’s a great way to let them know who we are, and that it’s important for us to be a good community citizen.”
While advertising at professional events may increase your visibility on a per-attendee ratio, Tullis said he prefers to share his sponsorship money with the local market at the youth level.
When approached about placing a Capstone banner in a local gymnasium for $100, he quickly obliged. He was so happy with the return on investment, he asked if he could put another banner up on a chain-link fence leading into the ballparks at the facility, as well. Though the advertisements cost $200, the vast number of local families seeing the Capstone name and image was priceless.
“That’s great exposure for us,” Tullis said. “For the most part, I don’t think those programs realize the potential they have to generate marketing dollars. It’s such a great demographic for home-services businesses. We’re always looking for those little niches that are undervalued or under-marketed and try to get in with them.”
Fanning the Fanatics
By sponsoring a professional team, you do open yourself up to not being liked by people who dislike that team, Isaac said. When it comes to sponsoring high school and middle school athletics, there’s not much of that.
“Nobody says I hate the Webster Titans,” Isaac said. ‘But you know how many people say ‘I hate the Bills?’ People will say they hate the Cowboys, or the Yankees, so it’s almost like taking a political position and putting your name on it. With high school stuff, you’re supporting it, and people from other communities see it, too. When you have that money available, it can be very effective.”
For all his work with the professional teams in the Washington, D.C., area, Cropp also has a soft spot for youth teams. He said he very rarely says no to youth organizations, and will gladly sponsor any teams or clubs that his employees are involved in, whether it’s a baseball team or a ballet club, as long as the employee is active with the program.
“Those are real small (amounts of money). They’re $250, $500, and maybe for a larger, well-known high school, it’s $1,000,” Cropp said. “The community support you get for doing that, and being known for that, is worth its weight in gold.”
Isaac recently came into an interesting sponsorship opportunity. A friend’s child wrestled for a local high school and mentioned they were looking for a sponsor for their warm-up shirts. Seeing an opportunity, Isaac jumped at it.
“Before a wrestling match, the kids sit around the mat,” Isaac said. “On the front is their school name, but on the back is Isaac Heating & Air Conditioning. Our name is broadcast on the back of each of these kids — 30 times — all around the mat for everyone to see. And we’re going to buy them again next year. We’re also going to do it for the soccer team, as well. The shirts cost me like $400. I could buy one TV ad for that much and get nothing out of it on the 6 o’clock news. You buy shirts for them for $400, there’s a personal tie, so you take it from a top-of-mind awareness thing to something where parents would want to come to us.”
Cropp said community members are quick to remember your name when you’re active in the community.
“I seem to get more bang for my buck from middle school and elementary school,” Cropp said. “I don’t know if it’s that the parents are more involved at that stage than in high school, but I seem to get more return there. For the amount of money you put in versus what you get back, it’s huge. It’s a no-brainer.”
Sponsoring sports teams also serves as a relationship builder that can pay dividends down the road.
“I’ve always found that the more I focus on helping others, the more help finds its way to me and that is always what happens with these sponsorships,” he said. “It’s partly marketing and advertising, but a big portion of it is community service and community involvement. The more we do, the more we get back in return. It does have a big effect on the bottom line.
“We’re now doing the air conditioning at the new Baylor stadium that’s being built. Sponsoring all those years and having a low price is what got us the job. It wasn’t because we provided misting fans during football season. It’s that relationship that we built with the school that helped put us in the right position with the right folks at the right time. We’re certainly glad to land that contract. Go Bears.”
Publication date: 8/26/2013